Beginner’s Guide to… Reading

Posted on 23.08.2016

Beginner’s Guide to… Reading

Reading Festival 2015. Photo by Jen O'Neill.

I consider myself a sort of Reading veteran; I’ve been going every year for the last 5 years. For me it is the highlight of the year and a culmination of all the great music I love.

Last year was the first time I used the accessible campsite and the viewing platforms, and it made my experience so much better. I had the opportunity to volunteer for Attitude is Everything, who run the campsite info tent, and also help supply Oxfam with volunteer stewards for the viewing platforms. All the volunteers are disabled themselves so know what it’s like to have extra needs going to a festival. Any questions you have, don’t be afraid to ask, that’s what they’re there for.

Remember… when you first get to the site go to the disabled access check in. It’s just by the leisure centre and clearly signposted, we got a taxi there from the station, but you could walk or get the shuttle bus if you’re not driving.

The accessible campsite is great, it’s a lot quieter than in general camping and it’s surprising how easy it is to get some much needed rest. The campsite is very flat so it is easy enough to pitch up tents. Just remember to pack a mallet as those tent pegs can be a bit of a pickle.

I was a bit worried about how it would be seen me using the platforms as I have a hidden disability – I am Autistic and I can struggle with crowds. The staff on the platforms were great with this and obviously understood that not all disabilities are visible.

The author, Laura, and her PA having fun on a viewing platform at Reading.

Having a PA with me really helped, and as you can see in the photo, just because we’re on a platform does not mean we didn’t have fun. In fact I think of all the festivals I’ve been to I most enjoy myself when I’m on the platforms as I can let my hair down and go as crazy as I like. There is a great vibe on the platforms as everyone just “gets it”.

For those with a hearing impairments there are even BSL signers for certain bands, just ask at the campsite info tent when you get there for more info. It’s great that everyone gets to enjoy themselves; no one on the platforms cares who are the PAs and who is disabled, everyone gets stuck in together. The only time this might change is if the platform becomes full, in which case PAs are asked to stand up to create a little more room.

My Top Tips for a great weekend:

  • Keep hydrated. It’s all too easy to forget to drink water, especially if you’re drinking alcohol.
  • One solid meal a day. With Reading being so close to the town centre I would often go and get some food from the town, but there is a wide variety of options within the arena too.
  • Make a plan but don’t stick to it. It’s great to have a plan of who you want to see, but be flexible, you never know by catching someone you hadn’t heard of before you might find your new favourite artist.
  • Let your hair down. Reading only comes round once a year so make the most of it, don’t be embarrassed about having a good time. More often than not other people will join in if they see you having a good time.

Have a great weekend folks – if you see me come and say hi, meeting people at festivals is great!